Could the feds really shut down the Florida border?

Feb 17, 2021

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A fundraising plea from Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has caused some consternation among folks who might be considering travel to Florida.

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According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis texted supporters that President Joe Biden “is trying to shut FL’s border.” DeSantis also sent an email saying, “Joe Biden is considering treating Florida like East Berlin and shutting down our border over ‘coronavirus concerns.”

In fact, DeSantis made similar comments back on Feb. 11 with similar charges.

DeSantis suggests Florida numbers are actually good in comparison to other states despite having among the least restrictions based on coronavirus. “Any attempt to restrict or lockdown Florida by the federal government would be an attack on our state done purely for political purposes.”

Related: Travel is getting harder and pricier

The problem is that there is no indication the Biden administration has anything like that planned or even if the federal government has the power to close a state border. The fact-checking organization Politifact has debunked the DeSantis claim calling it “false.”

The fundraising messaging from the governor is likely a reaction to comments from the Biden administration that bans on travel to or from areas in some states were a possibility. McClatchy newspapers quoted a few unnamed Biden administration sources who were reported to be considering restrictions on travel to or from areas including parts of Florida where the U.K. and South African variants are spreading.  Here’s the key line from the report, “Two federal government officials underscored that no policy announcements are imminent, and that any move to restrict travel or impose new health measures would be taken in partnership with state and local governments.”

In fact, the Biden administration has denied reports it’s considering a ban on travel to or from Florida telling Reuters, “no specific decisions are under consideration.”

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated that at a recent press briefing saying, “No decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would change domestic travel.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told me in an interview a few weeks ago when I asked him about quarantines and other safety measures, “I can’t speak to any future steps yet, although I can tell you that any steps that are taken in the future, they’re going to be informed by talking to stakeholders. They’re going to be informed by science and medicine. And the bottom line is always going to be safety because we know that the more there is a perception, as well as the reality of safety, the more that restores confidence and restores the industry too.”

Related: What we can expect from the Biden Administration on travel 

Unfortunately, Florida is also the epicenter for a new, more-easily-spread variant of COVID-19 that may be more deadly as well. Florida has the most cases of any state of the new version of the virus that was first found in the U.K., with the number of cases quadrupling in less than a month. The CDC says the new strain could become the dominant strain in the U.S. in March.

Related: Half of Americans cite travel for vaccinations

For now at least, you can rest easy that your trip to Florida won’t be canceled by the federal government, no matter what you might be hearing from the Florida governor. Keep an eye on those headlines about the new variant, however, because that should probably play a bigger role in any future Florida travel.

Featured image of Palm Beach, Florida from Jan. 31, 2021 by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

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